Where’s the loyalty?

Even when Pirates fans show up, they're afraid to show their faces.

Last week, Brand Keys, a brand and customer loyalty research and strategic planning consultant, released its  annual Sports Loyalty Engagement Index.  Brand Keys claims to empower “professional sports teams [to] increase their broadcast, ticket and merchandise revenues by providing the precise loyalty rankings of fans in the home (and national) market.”

How these “precise” rankings were arrived at is not explained but I’m pretty sure even the most casual sports fans could have drawn the same conclusions. For the most part, the highest ranking teams also happen to be the most successful. No surprise there, since, if there’s one thing sports fans have in common it’s the bandwagon-jumping mentality.

There are a few surprises, though. The San Francisco Giants are ranked No. 4 in the Major League Baseball ratings, no doubt bolstered by their unexpected 2010 World Series championship. Pretty sure they were nowhere near the top five last year. But the San Antonio Spurs ranked No. 1 in the NBA ahead of the Lakers and Celtics, the teams that have won each of the last three championships? And the Phoenix Suns at No. 5? C’mon.

And for all the cash that Jerry Jones has poured into the Cowboys, “America’s Team” is not among the top five in the NFL. Heck, they’re apparently not even “Dallas’ Team” anymore. That title goes to the Mavericks, who are ranked No. 5 in the NBA. The same Mavs who despite winning at least 50 games in each of the past 11 seasons, have advanced to the NBA Finals just once, losing in six games to the Miami Heat. In fact, Dallas has been knocked out in the first round of the playoffs  in three of the last four years.

New England sports fans can beat their chests: all four of its major sports team were rated in the top five of their respective leagues (What? No MLS rankings?).  But in Atlanta fans’ loyalty must fall behind the Braves and Falcons because clearly nobody cares about the Hawks and Thrashers (one playoff appearance in 10 seasons).

Which brings me to the NHL, the red-headed stepchild among professional sports. I’ve always clung to the mantra that no NHL team should be located in a city where ice does not form naturally. So, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Phoenix, Nashville, you get what you deserve. St. Louis? Well, Brett Hull’s not walking through that door. And the Islanders? Well, yeah, they have ice there, but no decent players won’t to skate on it. I’m pretty sure 54-year-old Mike Bossy would be no worse than the second-line right wing on the Island.

And the poor Oakland Raiders. Their 8-8 record last year was their first sniff of .500 in an NFL season since 2002. It’s enough to make Al Davis (left) roll over in his grave. Actually, he just looks dead. Just like his franchise.

The Brand Keys Sports Loyalty Engagement Index rankings:


Top 5

  1. New England Patriots
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers
  3. Indianapolis Colts
  4. Green Bay Packers
  5. New York Jets

Bottom 5

  1. Carolina Panthers
  2. Cleveland Browns
  3. Washington Redskins
  4. Cincinnati Bengals
  5. Oakland Raiders


Top 5

  1. San Antonio Spurs
  2. Los Angeles Lakers
  3. Dallas Mavericks
  4. Boston Celtics
  5. Phoenix Suns

Bottom 5

  1. Atlanta Hawks/Toronto Raptors
  2. Memphis Grizzlies
  3. Minnesota Timberwolves/Golden State Warriors
  4. Sacramento Kings
  5. Charlotte Bobcats


Top 5

  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Boston Red Sox
  4. San Francisco Giants
  5. Los Angeles Dodgers

Bottom 5

  1. Seattle Mariners
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks
  3. Kansas City Royals
  4. Baltimore Orioles
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates


Top 5

  1. Detroit Red Wings
  2. Philadelphia Flyers
  3. San Jose Sharks
  4. Vancouver Canucks
  5. Boston Bruins

Bottom 5

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning/Nashville Predators (tie)
  2. Phoenix Coyotes
  3. New York Islanders
  4. St. Louis Blues
  5. Atlanta Thrashers

One thought on “Where’s the loyalty?

  1. I’ve been to PNC Park, and I understand why Pirates fans stay away: Why go to a beautiful, beautiful park (I’d put it in the top 5 in the league) to see a team that has absolutely no prayer of competing? My patience with current Pirates management elapsed when they gave up Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson for magic beans, er, um, “prospects.” Terrible, terrible management. Even Clint Hurdle won’t be able to rescue this mess.

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